The images were seen all over the world and stuck in the minds of
many: in the autumn of 2004, former President of the Ukraine, Viktor
Yushchenko, was poisoned with a high dose of dioxin. Although he
survived the attack, the chloracne caused by the poisoning, officially
known as MADISH, left him severely disfigured: his face was peppered
with numerous cysts, which left deep scars.
Now a team of researchers headed by ETH-Zurich professor Sabine
Werner and a senior researcher of her team, Dr. Matthias Schäfer, has
stumbled across a link between chloracne and a molecular switch, which
causes a comparable skin phenotype in mice after longer and increased
activation. The new discovery has just been published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
The molecular switch is Nrf2, which the ETH-Zurich researchers have
been studying in connection with different skin diseases for some time.
Nrf2 is a so-called transcription factor. It activates certain genes
that protect cells and help them to survive under stress conditions. The
ETH-Zurich scientists had discovered that a moderate activation of Nrf2
protects the skin against UV damage (see ETH Life from 20 May 2010).
The molecule activates several genes designed to protect skin cells from
aggressive free radicals, which are formed through UV radiation, save
them from dying off and prevent damage of the genetic material.
Nrf2 is thus an interesting candidate for use in skincare creams and
for cancer prevention. Until now, however, the consequences of prolonged
Nrf2 activation in the skin had not been characterized. After all, in a
previous study Werner and Schäfer realised that the skin of mice became
flaky and was thus potentially damaged upon increased activation of
READ MORE: http://www.sciencecodex.com/two_sides_of_a_safety_switch-127470